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RECAP: Oilers 4, Panthers 1

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers


EDMONTON, AB - Edmonton skated out to an early lead and never looked back, defeating the Florida Panthers 4-1 for their third-straight victory.

The win tonight is just another boost to the rising confidence of the Oilers roster.

"Well it's certainly higher than a week ago, I'll tell you that," said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "Our confidence is high, we want to keep that going but also understand that we have higher aspirations than the game that we played today. We can play better than we played today. We can play better than we played today. It's got to be one of these everyday things."

The Oilers wasted no time in getting on the board as their five-forward power play unit struck for the third time in three games just 57 seconds into the contest. Taylor Hall passed the puck to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who fired it inside on goaltender Tim Thomas. Jordan Eberle batted it in for his seventh goal of the season and team-leading 19th point.

"I think the biggest thing is we're bearing down on our chances and we're putting the puck in the net when we get the opportunities," said Nugent-Hopkins. "That comes down to the second and third opportunities for us. It's huge for us right now. We have a good run at home here and we know how important these games are. It's nice to get a couple in a row."

In a bizarre moment towards the middle of the opening period, Nugent-Hopkins was skating around in the offensive zone with a stick lodged in his helmet. The Oilers player threw off the defective head piece and continued his shift, drawing a loud response from the Edmonton crowd.

"It was weird," said Nugent-Hopkins. "I don't know quite how it got stuck like that. I was going to skate off but I couldn't see anything either so I just tried to take the helmet off and get back in the play. It was pretty funny."

At 6:10 of the second period, Nail Yakupov found Sam Gagner backdoor on Thomas with a bullet of a pass and Gagner found the back of the net for his first goal of the season.

"It's a good feeling," Gagner said about scoring his goal. "I feel like I've been getting chances. I just want to continue to do that and create for my linemates and help contribute to win. Tonight was a big one."

Yakupov stretched his point-streak to four straight games and with that tally, the Oilers had scored 13 unanswered goals dating back to their 4-2 comeback win over the Calgary Flames on November 16.

David Perron stretched that Oilers streak by another goal when he scored on the power play by tipping in a Justin Schultz one-timer at 9:54 of the second.  Nugent-Hopkins added his second assist of the night.

"It feels like night and day," said Oilers forward Jesse Joensuu. "Personally, I'm enjoying hockey and… five days ago, I really didn't. It's a huge difference."

Scottie Upshall would end that streak for the Oilers and break the shutout for the Panthers at 16:34 of the middle frame. Upshall's wraparound try found some space between Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk and the post to cut Edmonton's lead to 3-1.

Upshall's goal was his third against the Oilers this season after scoring two in their first meeting on November 5.

With that goal, the Oilers also saw their home shutout streak broken at 133 minutes and 49 seconds.

Eberle would score an empty-netter at 18:49, assisted by Nugent-Hopkins and Hall to make it 4-1 and ice the game.

Dubnyk stopped 24 shots in the win.

"It's a good feeling," said Gagner. "For the most part in that game, we played the right way. We broke the puck out of our end and we played real hard and I think the focus for us is to continue to do that. We had a full 60 minutes against Columbus (on Tuesday night) and tonight we let off the gas a little bit but it's nice to come out with the win."

The Oilers will get a chance to rest before their game against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, on monday.

"It's nice to go into the three-day break with a win, I think that's the biggest thing that we'll take from this," said Hall. "Tonight wasn't the perfect game by any means, but to get a win and to win three straight going into a nice little break gives us good momentum now."
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